By Diego J. Bartesaghi Mena
Rutgers Newark will be hosting Transgender Awareness Week starting Nov 18. November is Transgender Awareness Month, a time for transgender people and their allies to bring action and education to the community about the issues that transgender people face. During this week, different events will educate the general student body to know more about these issues surrounded transgender students.
“Transgender students are all over this campus. So, it is necessary to know certain competency about all the individuals you might meet,” said Maren Greathouse, Director of the LGBTQ and Diversity Resource Center.
First, we must understand the difference between sex and gender. Sex is biological. Male and female. Gender describes the characteristics that a society’s culture delineates as masculine or feminine. Most people, but not all, have a gender identity of man or woman, which is also consistent with their assigned sex at birth. This is called being cisgender.
There are some people, however, who feel their assigned sex at birth is not consistent with their own gender identity. This is called transgender.
“Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth” according to glaad.org.
A person’s gender identity is how someone identifies his or her own gender, which is a person’s inner sense of being male or female.
“Is important to understand this difference because in one hand we can value and understand what they [transgender students] bring to the table, in group projects and in personal conversations. And on the other hand, you can misinterpret their correct gender, or not being comfortable to ask the student about his/her prefer pronoun, or it might be inconsistence of what you [the student] might have of what a female or male should look like” Greathouse said.
Understanding this difference will make you an ally to the LGBTQ community.
Starr Lockettbutts is a transgender advanced MSW student, intern at the LGBTQ Diversity and Resource Center and program coordinator for the OUTspoken Speakers Bureau, a panel discussing “coming out” stories, gender and sexuality.
“It is important for the student body to understand transgender students in order to get out of the binary gender (female and male) since there are different genders outside this binary” Lockettbutts said.
In the LGBTQ community, an ally not only helps people in the coming-out process, they also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect. And for transgender students and transgender people, this support is important.
Transgender people face incredible levels of discrimination and violence. According to glaad.org, in 2012, 53% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were transgender women. In “Injustice at Every Turn,” a report published by the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Task Force showed that transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty, experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate, and experience harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color. Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance. 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population. Transgender people still cannot serve in the US Military.
Also, according to forge-forward.org, at school (students in grades K-12): 78% experienced harassment (31% by teachers or staff), 35% experienced physical assault (5% by teacher or staff), 12% experience sexual violence (3% by teacher or staff), and 6% were expelled for their gender identity/expression
And most of the states do not have laws that protect transgender people who experience this type of discriminations.
Besides the overt discrimination and violence perpetrated towards transgender population, there are a significant amount of transgender people who have made an important contribution to the world such as Laverne Cox, an actress starring in Orange is the New Black, Lana Wachowski, co-director of The Matrix and Cloud Atlas, and Chaz Bono, author and LGBT advocate
Rutgers University is featured in Campus Pride’s list of the most LGBTQ-friendly universities in the United States. Rutgers Newark Campus has LGBTQ policy inclusion and has several “safe zones,” places where LGBTQ students feel safe to express their own gender identity.
“If a transgender student is out and comfortable with this they are always welcome to come to the office and see other transgender students and feel that they are not the only ones on campus,” Lockettbutts said.
Also, providing gender-neutral housing, which provides a single rooms or private rooms in a suite for the privacy. The student health insurance is trans-inclusive. It provides transgender students the ability to undergo hormone therapy and in the process of sex change surgery. Moreover, due to the LGBTQ policy inclusion, the counseling center provides therapy for transgender students in which, according to genprogress.org, only 10% of colleges and universities have trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policies.
For cisgender students, or non-transgender students, there is also an array of resources available for them. Events such as Transgender 101 on Nov 19 and Transgender Remembrance Day on Nov 20, a daylong conference regarding problems transgender people have.
“There are workshops periodically throughout the year” Greathouse said. “They can stop by the office to talk individually, they can request the OUTspoken Speakers Bureau to talk in their classroom about these issues, or visit our website and check some off campus resources.”
“More important, let’s celebrate the diversity that each student has,” Lockettbutts said.